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Picture this… you’re in college and want to find a summer internship. You’re not sure what you want to do for the internship, you just know you don’t want to go home for the summer and you want a more professional job. So you apply to a few things that sort of seem interesting and their paid. You get accepted to an internship, you sublet your friends apartment for the summer and you are all set. But within 3 weeks of the internship you realize “I think I hate my internship.”

The above illustration definitely happens. I know it does from personal experience (some 13 years ago). I knew I was interested in Marketing and Advertising. The internship I had was with a large newspaper doing outside advertising sales. Looking back, I’m certain I didn’t know what that meant, but advertising was in the title… so it must be at least sort of related to what I wanted to do. During my weeks working at the newspaper I learned quite a bit about sales, cold calling, customer service, relationship building, communication… so it wasn’t a total loss.

But let’s get back to the “Hating” part. Hate is such a strong word (isn’t it). If you are not liking (there that is better… not liking vs. hate) your internship what can you take away from this experience. I learned that if I am going to be involved in sales I better feel passionate about what I am selling. And I learned cold calling has to be one of the worst things on Earth (but I digress).

What can you learn from you own not liking internship experience:

  • Like me, you possibly now have a work environment or career option that you can check off the list. But be careful here… notice I didn’t say that I will never do sales. That would be pretty hard to avoid… sales is everywhere. But realize maybe that what you are selling would have to be different, or the environment in which you were working would have to change for you to be satisfied.
  • Next time you are looking for an internship or job, take time with your search and get advice about what might better suit your interests, values and skills. The best way to do this is meet with a career counselor at your career services office.
  • Speak up to your internship supervisor. If you are not liking the way your internship is going maybe it isn’t too late to turn it around. Ask your supervisor or team lead if you could meet to discuss some goals you have for the internship. Ask if you could observe a different department or use the last few weeks to engage in a new project more suited to your interests.

Even the worst experiences, failures or challenges can be helpful in defining who we are and what we can do with our lives.